out of translation

My nana died two years ago. I think about her almost every day.

Usually when I am running up River Trail, just before I reach the clearing above the canyon. I think she would have liked the view. I always think about her after I accuse Dayton of cheating at Scrabble. She was a gambler who hated losing. At Bingo. Uno. Kings in the Corner. To her grandchildren. To her husband. She nightly accused my grandfather of holding cards, shuffling poorly, or dealing an outright mess.

She said there was no point in getting angry with a person for feeling how they felt.  I recall thinking she may have been talking about herself. Perhaps after storming down the hall after losing. Or giving grampa the silent treatment. I know that guilty feeling you feel before pulling up a chair to ante up again. I wonder if she felt it too.

I think about my nana when I am standing underneath a 250 million year old arch carved by water and time and grains of sand. I wonder what she would think about this strange desert moonscape.  Or if she has already been here.

Every time I see an old person pulling their oxygen behind them into a store I think about how she would come answer the door. After a stroke she lost sight in one eye. Then her hearing started to go. She said she didn’t want to be a machine.

Sometimes I look at D and wonder what she would have thought of him. She always had a thing for young attractive men with blue eyes. I suspect she would approve.

I wish he could have met her.

But when she was sick we weren’t together. The last time my nana and I talked about boys she was eager to hear about a spring fling I actually wasn’t having. I think she was rather disappointed.

I try telling D about her. She saved everything – tin foil, saran wrap, butter cartons. She made the best chicken cutlets – they were burned along the edges just right. But something is inevitably lost in the details. It is hard explaining to someone a person they can know only in pictures and stories they weren’t part of.  Memories don’t get passed down. They don’t quite translate across people.

These days I wonder about how my mom is doing. For the past month she has been caring for my dad’s mother in their home. Much like they did two years ago with my nana. They fastened the same doorbell to her walker and attached the ringer to their bedside. Just in case. The same dog comforted a tiny old lady trying to salvage her independence in the same bed. Only this time is different. My grandmother is going home next week.

Every week I wonder about my grampa. So I call him on Sundays to check in. It takes eight minutes. I know because I time our conversations. We go through a similar line of questioning. We talk about the weather, curse Boston sports teams, talk about my garden, and tell each other to stay out of trouble. I want to ask him, do you miss nana? But I don’t. He’s alone. And I already know the answer.

At 90 he doesn’t drive much anymore. Only to the cemetery and back. It’s about two miles down the street. He visits my nana every day. Sometimes he brings flowers.

She is buried surrounded by Italians. She is the lone Scot. I remember hoping it won’t be too loud for her there. But then again she was kind of used to it after 63 years. My nana was a private person who married into a family of talkers. We had bagpipes play at her funeral.  I think about her when I hear those too.

I still talk to her. Usually at night. When I am alone. Or after spotting a ladybug. Sometimes I ask her to look in on my people and pull some strings. Cheat if she has to. She has answered me once in my sleep. She talked about cake. I know we were not talking about dessert and whether she ordered it with any fruit. But sometimes the words just don’t translate.

8 thoughts on “out of translation

  1. Thanks for passing along the memories, they are meaningful to others! You are special, and I think that is amazing how your grampa drives to the cemetery every day 🙂 I have to admit I get confused on who is who since there is more than one nana and the two sets of grandpas that were and was. You are a lucky girl to have them in your life, not all of us had grandparents. xo!

  2. Through tear filled eyes I read and am so grateful that you have such a wonderful way with words. Sometimes words don’t translate…. I love you and she loved you. We will carry her with us always. xoxo

  3. Megs, I am truly lucky to have gotten to know my grandparents so well and for so long. I am grateful I still have my dad’s mum and mum’s dad. They are special special people.

    Mother Hen, we will carry her.

  4. Kristen, I’d been meaning to write my grandma a card for months now– your post finally got me to sit down and do it. Thank you for that. Your nana sounds like she was amazing and full of spitfire.

  5. You definitely would have liked my nan Jill.

    And Katie, my nana was full of spitfire. Glad she inspired you to write to yours. 🙂

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